I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the career of Ethan Hawke. Then I read this morning’s profile in the New York Times.
It seems Hawke’s work had been routinely and harshly criticized for years. Now, it seems he’s receiving more than his share of respect and even acclaim.
How? By doing the work he felt he needed to do. By shunning the words of critics. By persisting in the face of all obstacles. By recognizing that his actions themselves were just reward. By admitting that he might not receive recognition in this lifetime.
These lessons are hard to reconcile with the current obsession with fast and easy fame. At best, they offer some salve in the face of unrelenting online attacks against those who dare to think and act differently.
His story in particular challenges my own obsession with criticism. I may receive overwhelmingly positive feedback on a project. Still, I latch on to negative comments. I do so with a ferocity that seems irrational. That tendency clouds the inner voice that inspires my action. It gets in the way of my personal and professional growth.
What a great ideal Ethan Hawke's career offers. He has taken his life and work seriously, what others say be damned. I don’t know how he did it; he just did. And he’s a role model for any of us grappling with doubts and a world seemingly hostile to our best efforts.
Take yourself seriously. Just do the work you were meant to do.